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Woman trying to sell house finds family living inside, paying rent to mystery landlord

LANSING, Ill. – A woman who was ready to sell her vacant Illinois home found a family living in it, and that family said they have been paying rent – but it's not clear to whom.

Since 2004, Nilam Patel has owned a home on Park Avenue in Lansing, Ill. The house has been vacant for the last five years, but in February, Patel put it on the market to sell.

Last week, she had an agent come to show the house.

“We had an agent come through trying to show it and found out there is no lock box on the house and someone living in the house,” Patel said.

Patel, who lives in Bartlett, Ill., went to the home immediately and called the police.

“If anyone walks through anyone's lawn you get arrested. They are living in my property, trespassing,” Patel said.

The police told Patel there's nothing they can do, because the tenant showed them a lease that says she has been living in the home for more than 30 days.

The tenant, a mother of five who did not want her identity disclosed, showed WGN the lease and said she found the home online.

“I was trying to get out of a bad situation so I looked for a place off Craigslist,” the tenant said.

The tenant said she met a woman from a company called CRT Properties at the home in early April, and paid her $2,400 in cash, then another $1,200 rent for the month of May, but she couldn't show a receipt.

Rich Kukac, the owner of CRT Properties in Orland Park, said he has no record of this lease. He said it must be fake and he’s not sure how they got the company’s name.

“We don't have any property in Lansing. I think it's a fraudulent transaction. If what the people that are there are telling the truth it's not uncommon to have squatters move in to vacant properties,” he said.

"It’s crazy. It's frightening and I have to deal with this all alone because no authorities are willing to help,” Patel said.

The owner gave the woman a five-day notice to leave – but if she doesn't, she has to go through an eviction process.

“I do apologize for the situation that took place, however there's nothing I can do right now – I ditched out all my money to this lady for this place,” the tenant said.

“If they've been scammed they need to take it up to whoever scammed them, not me. My property needs to be vacant," Patel said. "It's on the market and I need to get rid of it.”

The Cook County Sheriff's Office said they are looking into it, and are also going to help find the woman living in the home some services and a new place to stay.